Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha

by Krishna Kanta Handiqui | 1956 | 159,632 words

This page relates Description of prince Nala which is canto 1 of the English translation of the Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha, dealing with the famous story of Nala (king of Nishadha) and Damayanti (daughter of Bhima, king of Vidarbha), which also occurs in the Mahabharata. The Naishadhacharita is considered as one of the five major epic poems (mahakavya) in Sanskrit literature.

Canto 1 - Description of prince Nala

1. Nala was a mass of radiance, resplendent from festivities, the circle of his fame serving as a white umbrella for him. Drinking in his story, protector as he was of the earth, the gods do not in a like manner esteem even nectar.

2. Nala, whose story by the varieties of its sweetness surpasses nectar, was the lord of the earth, marvellous in his virtues. The flaming trail of his might and the circle of his fame served as a sceptre of gold and a unique, white umbrella.

3. His story, kept in mind, purifies the world in this age, as if by washing with water; why will it not purify my speech, which, though crude, is solely devoted to him?

4. Creating as he did four stages (in each of the fourteen branches of knowledge) with the attributes of study, understanding, practice and teaching, I know not why he himself created “the character of being fourteen”, in the fourteen sciences.[1]

5. Learning, a dancer on the tip of his tongue, became eighteen-fold, like the three Vedas multiplied by the (six) Vedāṅgas, as if out of a desire to conquer the sovereignty of each of the eighteen islands.[2]

6. Being the lord of the regions, his might was composed of portions from the divine lords of the regions. He had in the lawbooks a third eye, which checked the march of desire, and indicated his descent from the three-eyed Śiva.[3]

7. In the Golden Age, Nala having established Virtue on its four feet,[4] who did not practise religious austerities? For even Vice, lean and thin, turned an ascetic, touching the earth with only the little toe of one foot.[5]

8. The dust raised by his army in his expeditions, the dust that was beautiful like the smoke of the blazing fire of his might, went and fell into the moon, a sea of nectar;[6] and there turned into clay, it forms the lunar spot.

9. His numerous enemies spread their disgrace, as if it were the charcoal left by the fire of their valour, quenched in battle by the copious rain of arrows loosed by him, who was, as it were, a cloud with the sound of his flashing bow.[7]

10. He, the slayer of kings, shone with the ‘ceremony of circular waving of lights’ performed (in his honour), after having gone round, with a view to conquest, the circle of the earth, refulgent with his might, that was radiant as the fires which burnt up completely the cities of his enemies.

11. Excessive rains, prevented by Nala throughout the entire earth, rendered free by him from the evils known as the Ītis,[8] never left the eyes of the gazelle-eyed mistresses of hostile kings, being without any other place of refuge.[9]

12. The shuttle that was the skill of his soldiers, acting in cooperation with the loom that was his mighty sword, wove on the battle-field, with his moon-coloured virtues serving as yarn, the wide cloth of his fame covering the limbs of those maidens, the regions of the sky.

13. Just as hostile kings gave up creating disaffection among his subjects for fear of him, similarly did even mutually conflicting attributes give up their contrast out of fear for him? For by virtue of his power he was both conqueror of enemies and conqueror of friends; he saw through spies, and at the same time did not see through spies.[10]

14. The Creator draws round the sun and the moon, a halo for a cancelling mark, whenever he thinks, “These two are useless in the presence of Nala’s might and fame.”[11]

15. ‘This man will be poor’—this script of the Creator present on the forehead of suppliants was not made false by the king; for having surpassed the Wishing Tree (in generosity), he made poverty itself poor.

16. Two things were regarded by him as his two blemishes, resting on his head in the shape of his divided hair; namely, that he did not by partitioning the (golden) Mountain of Meru, put it at the disposal of suppliants, and that he did not turn the ocean into a desert, by giving away ‘waters of gift’.[12]

17. The able king, with a splendour like that of the sun, rose in prosperity day by day, joyfully passing his time with poets and scholars, who ceaselessly practised their art; (just as the powerful sun rises each day in joy, creating the hours with the planets Venus and Mercury constantly staying by its side.)

18. Did the Creator mark his foot with an upward line[13] to indicate that it would be uppermost (in beauty and position) in the future? For it (now) puts the lotus and the new leaf below it in rank, and plants itself on the heads of all the kings of the earth.

19. Coining to the end of his boyhood, he achieved the conquest of the world, and by that means the acquisition of inexhaustible treasure; then did youth embrace his body, just as the season that is Cupid’s friend[14] embraces a forest.

20. His foot held the lotus in contempt; in the leaves of trees was there even an iota of the beauty of his hand? The autumnal full moon was not fit even to act as a slave to his face.

21. Did not the Creator reckon his merits with crores of lines, the hairs of his body? Did not the maker of the world put the pores of his skin for zeros to indicate the absence of defects?

22. Verily his arms received the length and stoutness of a bar, while storming the forts of his enemies; and in the same activity the splendour of his chest assumed the breadth and unassailable strength of the shining panel of a fortified door.

23. His face eclipsed the moon with its smile, which was but a fragment of its grace, and threatened the beauty of the lotus with its eyes, which were but a part of it; so it had nothing similar to it in the world, which had no other beautiful object that surpassed those two.[15]

24. The lotus was vanquished by his eyes; his mere smile conquered the beauty of the moon: but is there anything else as beautiful as the lotus and the moon? Lo, great is the scarcity of objects worthy of comparison with his face.

25. The Camarī deer, under the pretext of wagging her tail, seems to say again and again that the desire of her mass of hair to be similar to his hair is a childish prank which does not constitute an offence.[16]

26. The beautiful women of the three worlds had with regard to the king two kinds of delusion produced by Cupid; the one owing to the Cupid-like beauty of the king, and the other owing to their heart’s desire for him.

27. A deep-rooted habit acquired by the maids of heaven, while eagerly drinking him in with eyes that never closed, is still manifested by them by their flickerless eyes.[17]

28. The mistresses of serpents, who hear with their eyes, both praised and reproached their eyes inwardly on account of Nala, thinking, “These our eyes which hear of him have their existence crowned with success, but they are futile, as they do not see him.”[18]

29. Women of the earth, seeing him even while their eyes were closed by virtue of constant contemplation, did not have in the matter of looking at him the slightest hindrance caused by the closing of their eyes (during sleep).

30. What woman was there, who did not see him in dreams, or who did not utter his name by mistake, or who did not arouse her erotic feeling during dalliance, by contemplating her husband in the form of Nala?

31. With the sole exception of Damayantī, what beautiful woman, no longer proud of her beauty, after having seen him,[19] did not darken with her sighs the mirror, which she had taken up in her hand, to look at herself, thinking, “I am worthy of Nala in beauty”?

32. Just as Pradyumna, carried by the bird[20] which feeds on serpents, was forcibly introduced into the city of Bāṇa surrounded by fire; similarly Cupid, borne by the age that enjoys pleasure,[21] was introduced into Damayantī’s mind occupied by Nala.

33. The daughter of king Bhīma devoted her mind, utterly subservient to the command of Cupid, particularly to Nala, worthy of her wealth of beauty, of whom she had repeatedly heard.

34. Every day coming to pay homage to her father, she took delight in the recitals of panegyrists, and was profusely thrilled, hearing of Nala, while they sang the praises of kings.

35. During conversation with her friends, when she heard from a friend the name ‘Nala’, though it referred only to the grass of that name,[22] the slender damsel, quickly leaving other matters, made her ears ready to listen to it in joy.

36. “I am afraid of the dead Cupid, with eyes that never blink; so cite somebody else as an illustration”. So saying, she made those who praised young men install Nala in his place as an example.[23]

37. She used to ask messengers, Brāhmaṇas, panegyrists and bards from the land of Niṣadha, about the virtues of Nala under various pretexts; then listening to the story of his fame, she long remained sad.

38. “Draw on the wall of the recreation hall a lover and his beloved excelling the three worlds in beauty.” Thus saying, she used to see the love of Nala and herself, which she caused to be depicted by some clever artist.[24]

39. Was there a night when she, sleeping, did not see Nala, whom she had made her husband in her mind? Owing to the power of destiny, sleep makes even an unseen object the guest of the eyes of men.

40. Though never seen by her before, the king was shown to her by sleep as a mighty secret, concealing him from her closed eyes; and even from her mind, dormant owing to the inaction of the external organs of sense.

41. Lo, to her, tortured by Cupid, even in the winter the days became long, and even at the height of summer the nights put on loads of fat.[25]

42. A time came when Nala likewise heard from people of her merits, enough to make a youth lose his patience; merits that assumed the role of a string for joining together the pearlstring of the fame of her beauty.

43. So getting an opportunity, Cupid, who was jealous, because he was surpassed by Nala in beauty, wished to conquer him by means of Damayantī, the embodiment of Cupid’s own unfailing strength.

44. Damayantī’s excellence was made by the king the guest of his ears; and Cupid, too, joining arrows to his bow for destroying Nala’s elevated strength of mind, made the string of his bow “the guest of his ears”.[26]

45. Then Cupid, connecting his bowstring with arrows, daring in his attempt to conquer that strong-minded man, verily staked the fame which he had earned by his conquest of the worlds.

46. So it was the never-failing desire of the Creator, wishing thus to unite Damayantī with Nala, that displayed itself, when even flowery arrows such as those of Cupid, pierced the armour of his steadfast character.

47. Lo, what else, Brahmā himself, consumed by the weapon of Cupid, still takes refuge on the lotus growing on the waters;[27] it seems, however, as if Nala could not surmount the influence of Cupid, owing to the latter being the shadow of his own body.[28]

48. Did the two pitchers of her bosom flash as youth’s new offering to her? For (with their help) swimming across the impassable river of bashfulness, the slender maiden entered the heart of Nala.[29]

49. What Cupid did to Nala, who was concealing his restlessness from others, was known to the night as well as his bed, both of which, soft with moonshine, witnessed his sleepless suffering.

50. The powerful Nala, though consumed by Cupid, did not ask the king of Vidarbha for the hand of his daughter: the proud would rather renounce both life and happiness than forsake the single vow never to beg.

51. Feigning to be sad on account of something, he concealed the succession of his sighs caused by her absence, and denied his paleness, by attributing it to an excess of camphor in the sandal paste applied to his body.

52. Luckily, even while in company, he was able to conceal what he addressed to his beloved seen under an illusion, as well as the fact that he fainted, while the lutanists played the cadences of the fifth note of the gamut.

53. The king, who had the reputation of being the foremost among those whose passions were subdued, was ashamed when the irresistible power of Cupid became by degrees manifest in him.

54. The power of discrimination, nor the other virtues could restrain Nala’s disquiet; for where there is love Cupid produces this disquiet that is never restrained: such is the natural law of the universe.

55. When, in spite of his efforts, he became unable to sit in the royal assembly even for a moment, without betraying signs of being in love, he desired to betake himself to a secluded place, under the pretext of recreation in his pleasure garden.

56. Then he who excelled Cupid in beauty ordered his servants to make a chariot ready, apparently in order to visit a garden in the outskirts of the city along with some friends who knew his secret.

57. The servants then brought his white, well-decorated horse, powerful in speed and more than a man’s height in size, who used to cleave the floor of the stable with his constantly moving hooves.

58. The horse was brilliant with the lustre of his mane, the lustre that resembled moonlight, and seemed to arise, through the inner passage of the nape, from the curl of hair known as the ‘divine jewel’, located on the surface of the neck.

59. His feet were attended by particles of dust raised by his ceaseless cleaving of the surface of the earth, as if they were the atom-sized minds of people coming to study the superiority of his speed.

60. It seemed as if the horse, repeatedly shaking his snout, was eager to tell the king about the glories of his speed, but kept silence, thinking, “What need to tell? He knows the mind of horses himself.”[30]

61. The horse was white with fame by reason of his carrying the great warrior emperor on the highway, without the help of any other horse; and, with the bright lustre of his teeth he was laughing[31] at the capacity of the sun’s horses, who were not like him.[32]

62. He was clearly demonstrating the fact of his being the king of horses by means of the emblem of two waving Cāmara whisks, namely, his tail and mane, moving and gleaming white.

63. The horse vied with Garuḍa, already forcibly humbled in his pride of speed, also in his power of devouring serpents, by means of the long and beautiful reins attached to his mouth.[33]

64. Then the large-eyed Nala, the Indra of the earth, who had conquered all kings, mounted that horse born in the land of Sindhu, white as the moon, and finer than the horse of Indra.

65. Just as the solar rays follow the sun, similarly bright-looking horsemen followed the king, who rode that swift horse, and whose lotus hand was distinctly marked by figures of lotus blossoms.[34]

66. As Nala went along adorning that horse of great speed, and beautiful in his dress befitting a rider, he was gazed at by the inhabitants of the city, whose eyelashes were totally motionless with joy.

67. In a moment, simultaneously with the showers of looks of the people, Nala with the lustre of the moon and the might of Indra, issued forth from the city on that horse, whose speed the wind might emulate.[35]

68. Two cavalry battalions in the vanguard of Nala’s army, brandishing the tips of their lances at one another, fought a mock fight out of fun, crying ‘Take, Strike.’

69. The horses, proud of their own speed, raised a volume of dust enough to dam up the ocean, as if they thought, “How many steps will this earth provide for us to pass over? So let the ocean, too, be turned into earth.”

70. Half striding in the air, with their mouths bent downwards, the horses refrained (from traversing the sky), as though thinking, “As Viṣṇu traversed the sky even with a single foot,[36] it will be a shame for us horses to traverse it with four.”

71. As the Buddhists[37] of the land of Sindhu, when they reach their monastery, do out of faith in the sayings of Buddha; so did the king’s cavalry soldiers, on reaching the garden of pleasure, make a circular formation with the large number of their horses.

72. The horses adorned the place with the beauty of their circular formation, ceasing to trot, as if thinking, “The regions have already been traversed by his enemies, and his fame has already turned the ocean into a cow’s footprint.”[38]

73. Does not the wind even to-day, making circular movements in the shape of whirlwinds, learn from the circular trottings, which Nala ably caused his horses to make on the ground under his umbrella?

74. Just as Viṣṇu enters the ocean which has a lustre like that of clouds, and is tinged with the hue of corals, in order to sleep in it; similarly the king soon after went and entered the thickly shaded pleasure garden, tinged with the hue of new leaves, to divert himself.

75. The looks of the citizens resembling a company of friends following (a departing friend), going with eagerness up to the border of the woodland, turned back as he gradually went out of sight.

76. The king then saw in the lovely flowers and fruits the beauty of the garden, pointed out to him by the gardener with his hand, with his fingers to the fore.

77. The trees, taking flowers and fruits in their leafy hands, shaken by the gusts of wind caused by birds flying over them, learnt the manner of according hospitality to him from the multitude of old sages living in the garden.

78. Looking about with curiosity, he saw there a Ketaka flower, which, in the guise of the bees settling on its full-blown leaves, was bearing a disgrace spreading on all sides; the disgrace which it had earned, owing to its rejection by Śiva.[39]

79. Angrily did he rebuke the Ketaka flower thus:[40] “Thou art hated by Śiva; because, piercing with thorns, thou art thrust by Cupid, like a barbed arrow, into the hearts of lovers in separation. Being inextricable from there, thou dost end their lives.

80. “With the needle of thy point as a help, Cupid weaves the two sheets of a loving couple’s disgrace; verily he plays havoc on the wood that is the heart of forlorn lovers by means of thy serrated leaves.

81. “Cupid, though his hand is moist with the honey flowing from his (flowery) bow, discharges his arrows at me, devoted as I am to Damayantī, smearing his hands with thy pollen as though with dust.”

82. He saw fruits on a pomegranate tree, which was being fertilized with smoke, as if they were pots engaged in rigorous austerities, drinking in smoke, face downward, in order to attain the height of Damayantī’s breasts.

83. He saw a pomegranate plant, with birds on it, and with thorns clearly visible, as if it were a forlorn maiden, clearly thrilled at the memory of her beloved; while it had arrows of Cupid made of Palāśa flowers, namely, the beaks of parrots,[41] piercing its rent and crimson heart, in the region of its breasts, its fruits.

84. On a Palāśa flower, resembling a crescent-shaped arrow of Cupid, and rending the hearts of lovers in separation, he saw the stalk, as if it were a portion of liver attached to it, apparently owing to its habit of eating away the flesh of pining lovers away from their homes.[42]

85. With both fear and ardour, Nala gazed at a young, gently quivering creeper kissed by the breeze. It was covered with the sprays of the honey of flowers, and had buds beaming with smiles.

86. He looked at the rows of Campaka buds, as if they were ceremonial lights in honour of Cupid, that were amassing sin in the shape of their soot, namely, the bees settling on them, because they killed forlorn lovers, like moths.[43]

87. He deemed the pollen inside the flowers to be blinding to lovers in separation, as if it were ashes from the body of Śiva, which came to be attached to the arrows discharged at him by Cupid in times of yore.

88. The suffering Nala saw a ground lily expanding its flowery hands in indifference, while the forest, “with blossoming Karuṇa trees in it”,[44] heard from the cuckoo the story of forlorn lovers’ plight, together with the humming of the bees.

89. He saw a mango tree angrily buzzing with the hum of agile bees, as if it wished to give separated lovers the fright of a threat, with the buds of its flowers playing in the air.

90. Mournfully he looked at the red-eyed cuckoo birds, which seemed to curse wayfarers thus. “Pine away every day more and more; fall into repeated swoons; suffer from heat.”

91. With a restless mind, gazing at a Campaka bud, high-crested with a wreath of bees, he surmised in fear that it was a comet rising to imperil forlorn lovers.

92. He saw a Nāgakesara flower, with its pollen streaming from it, and with a line of bees, which had settled on it, slipping down with circular movements; as if it were a grindstone with glowing sparks issuing on account of Cupid’s arrows being whetted on it.[45]

93. Cupid was ashamed, when he saw the lines of humming bees flying from the flowers to Nala’s fragrant limbs, being attracted by their excellence; for he mistook them for his own arrows, ill discharged from his bow.[46]

94. He saw a ripe Bilva fruit, hurt by the tips of the leaves playing in the air. It had a choice fragrance like that of sandal emerging from it, and resembled the breasts of courtesans.

95. Thinking that a cluster of Pāṭalā blossoms, studded with flowers,[47] in which the hearts of young couples were apt to sink, was a quiver of Cupid’s arrows, he trembled with a mind stupefied with fear.[48]

96. In the wood he thought that a dark-hued Agastya tree, which was putting forth buds, was Rāhu giving out the digits of the moon, which he had swallowed when the moon waned in the dark half of the month.

97. The amorous sports of the breeze, in which the leaves white with frost were first forcibly grasped, and which gave rise to graceful gestures in the creepers of a hedge, made him close his eyes when he saw them.

98. How could he refrain from welcoming the trees, which, with their heads bent extremely low with the weight of fruits, were bowing to the earth, their foster mother, in whose lap they had grown up?

99. The glow of the day, cooled by sylvan breezes; turned Into nectar by the honey of flowers; and whitened by the pollen of Ketaka blossoms, gave no joys of moonlight to the king, absent from his beloved.

100. The cuckoo, eyes red with anger, seeing the face of the king, the moon itself, the same as erstwhile, in spite of his being a lover in separation, called over and again with its sound Kuhū the night hostile to the moon.[49]

101. It seemed to him as if the shelter-giving Aśoka tree, which took up the burning weapons of Cupid[50] with its leaves, was killing those wayfarers pining for their homes, who had come to it with the derivative meaning[51] of its name in their minds.

102. The trio of music, song and dance waited upon him even in the wood, in the sound of ripples along the bank of the pleasure tank, the song of cuckoos and the agility of the peacock’s dance. Is there anywhere where a lucky person enjoys no pleasure?

103. Clever parrots let loose by people in the garden, after having trained them for the purpose, chanted his praise; sparrows, too, made likewise singers of his might, sang to him with the sweet melody of their voice.

104. Thus walking about in the garden, rich in choice perfume, cuckoos singing to him and parrots chanting his praise, he experienced an outer exuberance of fragrance, but no great inner joy, owing to Damayantī’s absence from him.

105. Holding the figure of a fish, his emblem, in his hand, as if for fear it should enter the water of the basins round the trees, he was taken for Cupid[52] following his friend, the spring, here in this garden with all the seasons present in it.

106. The woodland breeze, a tutor to maiden creepers in the art of dancing, and open thief of the store of fragrance in the flowers of the trees, attended on him, after it had resorted to pleasure swims in scented waters, the honey of flowers.

107. The king then saw a pool of water, as if it were the ocean living hidden in the garden, afraid of being churned, taking with it its long accumulated riches that excelled in everlasting gems.

108. The pool, in the guise of its multitude of lotus stalks, half hidden in the water, and penetrating the ground along the bank, was bearing the tusks of a crowd of Airāvatas submerged in the water, tusks beautiful like the tail of the serpent Ananta.

109. The pool, in contact with the clear reflections on it of the horde of horses resting on the border of its bank, shone forth, as if it possessed a thousand Uccaiḥśravas horses, moving by reason of the strokes of those whip-ends, its ripples.[53]

110. The pool looked bright, densely bearing a wide accumulation of moons spattered with sombre spots, namely, its mass of white lotus blossoms darkened in the midst by bees.

111. Under the disguise of a cluster of lotus shrubs the pool seemed to be accompanied by Śrī Kṛṣṇa holding his wheel (and attended by Cakravāka birds), associated with Lakṣmī (and lotus blossoms), resembling (and friendly with) a swarm of bees, and resting on the serpent Ananta visible in the shape of a mass of lotus stalks.[54]

112. The pool bore on it lines of waves, which seemed to be rivers, its own mistresses resorting to its bosom. It carried a mass of coral sprouts, namely, the slightly emerging buds of its red lotus beds.[55]

113. Nala fancied the pool to be emitting the lustre of the moon and the Kālakūṭa poison, immersed in its waters in the form of its vast lotus beds, white and blue.[56]

114. The rows of full-grown mossy creepers on it, agitated by the movements of waves, verily looked like smoke, ever growing in volume owing to the presence of the submarine fire in it.[57]

115. A lily growing on the pool was intensely thrilled in contact with the sun, and emitted an exuberance of fragrance. With lotus blooms for its body, it looked like a nymph during the day.

116. A tree on the bank, shaken by gusts of wind, with its dimensions reflected on the expanse of the waters of the pool, looked like the Maināka mountain,[58] immersed (in the ocean), and shaking its wings.

117-8. On that pleasure tank, surpassing the ocean in beauty, Nala saw a marvellous golden swan, which was moving about close by, eager for the sweet voice of the female swans desirous of play; and was holding, with its beak and feet, Cupid-made sprouts of the tree of passion—sprouts with two shoots for its younger mistresses, and leafy ones for those who were grown up.[59]

119. For a moment, looking at the immensely delightful bird, the king grew a little curious, although overwhelmed with grief, owing to his beloved’s absence from him.

120. Just as a straw follows a whirlwind, similarly the utterly uncontrolled heart of man follows the Creator’s will in the direction in which it moves, irresistible in its course in matters that are bound to be.

121. Then at that time the bird, exhausted with erotic langour, slept near the tank for a moment with its neck bent sideways, resting on one leg, and covering its head with its wings.

122. Did he think it to be a golden lotus together with its stalk,[60] drooping in shame, owing to its lustre being surpassed by his own face; or a yellow Cāmara whisk of Varuṇa adorned with a coral rod?

123. Then Nala having alighted from his horse, his shod feet flashed as if they were equipped with armour, wishing to vie with the leaves of the forest and the lotus blossoms of the water.

124. The king guilefully made his frame smaller, which (then) resembled Viṣṇu (during his Dwarf Incarnation), and took hold of the bird with his hands, having come to its side with silent feet.

125. The bird, perceiving that it was caught by him. tried in fright to fly away again and again. Quacking and despairing of flying away, it simply bit the hands of its captor.

126. It seemed as if the pool of water, ruffled by a flock of birds flying away in confusion, and anxiously taking pity (on. the swan), was deterring the king from catching the bird, with its hands, the lotus blossoms moving with the waves.

127. A flock of swans quacked oṅ the bank, like the anklets of the moving lotus-feet of the goddess of beauty, departing from that pod, deprived of the beautiful bird.

128. Verily the birds rebuked him by their cries, having left the earth and resorted to the sky, as if saying, “It is not worth while to live on this earth, whose lord is one like thee who hast renounced the customary conduct (of a king).”

129. Then the swan, resting on his hand as in a cage, said to the king as he was praising it again and again, “This beauty emanating from wings of gold was not seen in a bird.”

130. “Fie on thy mind, impatient with greed at the sight of my golden wings! As the waters of the ocean are little increased by sprays of ice, so what increase of wealth will be thine with these?

131. “Killing me, whose inmost soul rested in confidence on seeing thee, will not merely be to kill an animate being; sages whose only wealth is their religious virtue have greatly condemned the killing even of enemies who confide (in the captor).

132. “Everywhere there are warriors eminent in war, yet this thy passion for killing is satisfied on those who are humble. 0 king, fie on this thy evil prowess, directed against a poor bird deserving pity.

133. “Why is the earth today not ashamed of thee, her lord, oppressing as thou dost even one like me, who thus makes a living like an ascetic with the fruits and roots of lotus?”

134. Making the king amazed, ashamed and compassionate with words like these, the bird caused some utterances, rivers of pathos, to be guests in the heart of Nala, an ocean of kindness.

135. “I am the only son of my aged mother, my poor wife has newborn children, and I am their only support; thou Fate who persecutest me, it is strange that pity holdeth thee not in check!

136. “My kind friends, shedding tears just for a moment, will cease to do so, blaming the course of the world; but mother, for thee alone it will be hard to cross the ocean of thy grief for thy child.

(The swan addresses its absent mistress—)

137. “Dear, how wilt thou feel that moment, when thou seest birds weeping, on being asked by thee, ‘How far is my beloved, slow to send me lotus stalks and news?’

138. “Creator, how did this script in forehead-burning, cruel letters, ‘Thou shalt be bereft of thy beloved’, emerge with regard to me from thy lotus-hand, that created the coolness and softness of my beloved?

139. “Brisk-eyed one, certainly wilt thou today see all the ten fronts of the directions void, when fellow birds will have told thee this piece of news about me, similar to the stroke of a thunderbolt.

140. “Fair-limbed one, if thou diest with thy heart rent with grief ior me, then alas! though killed, I shall have been killed again by fate; for then our children, too, will surely bo dead.

141. “Alas, alas for my children with their eyes still closed, roiling on the edge of their nests; oppressed with hunger, owing to thy absence, as well as mine! Obtained after a long time with many a wish: gone in a moment!

142. “Children, calling whom with your cooings for a long while, shaking your mouths at whom, will you now learn to speak?” Having fainted with these words, the bird came to its senses, owing to being drenched with the king’s tears flowing on it.

143. ‘I have seen thy beauty, for which I caught thee; now go as thou likest’, saying thus, the king, owing to his kindness for the poor, let loose the bird which was lamenting in that way.

144. While its friends were honouring it, as if with a circular waving of lights in the guise of their circular flying round it, the bird made tears of joy follow in the wake of their streams of tears, previously shed in grief.

145. Śrī Hīra, the ornamental diamond of the crown of great poets, and Māmalladevī had Śrī Harṣa as their son, whose passions were subdued; here ends the first canto in the epic Naiṣadhīya-carita which is beautiful with the play of the sentiment of eros, and is the result of his meditating on his sacred formula—Cintāmaṇi.

Footnotes and references:


Four stages or aspects of fourteen sciences ought to make fifty-six; so the poet asks why they are still spoken of as being only fourteen. See, however, Notes.


In this verse the number of sciences, with which the king was conversant, is raised to eighteen.


Śiva had destroyed Cupid, the god of desire, with the fire issuing from his third eye.


Truth, non-stealing, quietude and self-control.


A mark of severe austerities implying that vice was practically absent.


Cf. 11. 97; 22. 93.


See Extracts from Cāṇḍūpaṇḍita.


Excessive rain stands at the head of the Īti evils.


i.e. excessive rain was present only in the shape of the tears shed by the widows of Nala’s enemies killed by him in battle.


The apparent contradiction is to be reconciled by construing the epithets as follows: “He was the conqueror of enemies and the conqueror of (i.e. more powerful than) the sun; he saw through spies as well as through his own judgment.”


The halo of the sun, like that of the moon, is fancied as a circle drawn round a word to indicate that it is to be cancelled. The idea is that Nala’s might was brighter than the sun, and his fame purer than the moon.


Refers to the ceremonial water accompanying gifts. See 5. 85, 86.


Refers to a line believed by astrologers to bring luck.


i.e. the spring.


i.e. the moon and the lotus.


Lit. the childish prank of her mass of hair wishing to be similar etc.


Goddesses being immortal never wink; this characteristic is here alleged to be the outcome of a habit of gazing at Nala.


Serpents are believed to hear with their eyes. Here, their mistresses heard of Nala with their eyes, but did not see him as they lived in the nether world.


i.e. Nala himself or his portrait. Damayantī fell in love with Nala without ever seeing him.




i.e. youth.


The grass ‘Nala’ is a kind of reed.


A beautiful youth is usually compared with Cupid, but Damayantī caused Nala to be substituted for Cupid on the ground that the latter was a sort of spectre, having died aforetime at the hands of Śiva. Further, Cupid being a god does not blink his eyes.


i.e. when the artist was told to draw two lovers, the most beautiful in the world, he drew a portrait of Nala and Damayantī in the company of each other.


i.e. became long.


i.e. drew it up to his ears to shoot his arrows. Cf. 4.1; 12.109.


i.e. in order to mitigate his heat, the lotus being Brahmā’s seat. The reference is to Brahmā’s passion for his own daughter Sandhyā and others.


Cupid is fancied as a mere shadow of the far more beautiful Nala; and, as a man cannot avoid his own shadow, Nala could not avoid Cupid.


For pitchers used as aids in swimming see 2.31.


See 5.60.


In Sanskrit poetry a laugh is always white; here the white lustre of the teeth is fancied as a laugh.


Unlike Nala’s horse, the horses of the sun could not singly draw his chariot.


The reins attached to the mouth of the horse are fancied as serpents in the mouth of the divine bird Garuḍa who feeds on them.


A sign of luck.


Lit. whose speed was worth studying by the wind.


During his Dwarf Incarnation.


The reference is to the custom of circumambulation of a monastery by Buddhist monks.


i.e. Nala’s enemies, routed in battle, have already covered all directions, and his fame has spread beyond the ocean; so it is unnecessary for the horses to cover the same distance over again.


It is forbidden to worship Śiva with Ketaka flowers, which is here regarded as a disgrace. The bees settling on the yellowish Ketaka flowers and appearing like dark spots are the symbol of this disgrace.


Most of the verses from 79 to 101 speak of the effect produced by diverse flowers on pining lovers.


The red beaks of parrots pecking at the rosy interior of cracked pomegranates are fancied as arrows of Cupid, made of scarlet Palāśa flowers, penetrating the bleeding heart of a maiden separated from her lover.


The sight of the brilliant Palāśa flower being unbearable to lovers in separation, the Palāśa, the literal meaning of which is “carnivorous”, is fancied as having eaten away their flesh, while its dark stalk is the liver which the flower has not yet been able to absorb.


The Campaka, like the rest of the flowers mentioned in this section, is regarded as intensifying, when seen, the sorrows of lovers in separation. Here the Campaka flowers are fancied as lights, and the bees settling on them as lampblack, which again is a symbol of sin.


Means also “taking pity.”


The Nāgakesara (Assamese ‘Nāhor’) is a round flower with white petals and bright yellow stamens. Here, the pollen is likened to sparks and the bees to arrows.


The lines of humming bees coming towards Nala are described as clumsily shot arrows, giving forth a loud twang, but going only a short distance.


Lit. which had its inner cavity filled with flowers.


The Pāṭalā is a species of trumpet-flower. The sight of this flower being painful to Virahins, its tubular hollow is fancied as a cavity in which the hearts of young couples sink.


The voice of the cuckoo being unbearable to Virahins, the bird is here regarded as their enemy. The cuckoo, seeing that Nala’s face was still the moon itself in spite of his sufferings, cried Kuhū, Kuhū—its usual sound; but Kuhū means also the Amāvāsyā night, so the bird really called that night to eclipse the moon incarnate in the shape of Nala’s face.


i.e. the red flowers of the Aśoka tree forming Cupid’s arrows.


The word Aśoka means “that from which there is no grief.” Depending on this meaning, forlorn lovers had recourse to its shade for relief, but the sight of its bright-hued flowers served only to aggravate their suffering.


Nala had the figure of a fish in his hand, a sign of luck; Cupid, too, has a fish as his emblem.


The Airāvata elephant and the Uccaiḥśravas horse had their home in the ocean; the pool is throughout fancied as the ocean with all its possessions before they were churned out of it.


The epithets within brackets refer to the bed of lotus shrubs, which is compared to Kṛṣṇa sleeping on the ocean on the coils of the serpent Ananta.


The comparison between the pool and the ocean is continued. The ocean is frequented by rivers, the pool by lines of waves; the former has corals, the latter red lotus buds.


The moon and the Kālakūṭa poison were in the ocean before the churning took place.


The pool being fancied as another ocean, the mosses on its surface are the smoke sent up by the fire associated with the ocean.


The only mountain who “retained his wings, when Indra clipped those of other mountains, on account of his friendship with the ocean.”


The red beak and feet of the swan are fancied as sprouts, the beak with its upper and lower sections as a sprout with two shoots, and the feet as sprouts with young leaves.


The golden swan resting on one leg is likened to a golden lotus resting on its stalk. The idea is continued in the next line.

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